discreet (də̇ˈskrēt) vs. discrete (dəˈskrēt)

 

This is a guest post by Aisha R. from California who participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016 and 2017.

Hi everyone! My name is Aisha and I am a 12 year old 7th grader. When Tara announced that she was doing a homonym theme on her blog, I was quick to volunteer to write a guest post.

An interesting pair of homonyms that I found are discrete (detached or separate) and discreet (prudent, modest, or unobtrusive). Both words come from the Latin verb discernere which means to separate or to distinguish. Unfortunately, the shared etymology makes these words difficult to differentiate.

A good way to remember the definition for the word discrete is that the two e’s in the word are separated by the t. Here is a picture to help you remember this trick.

discrete memory trick

Thank you Aisha, for taking the time to share this pair of homophones with us and your trick to remembering how to spell discrete. It is  interesting to note that the word “discern” (to recognize or identify as separate or distinct) also comes from the Latin verb discernere.

 

 

complacent (kəm-plā-sənt) vs. complaisant (kəm-plā-sənt)

Let’s kick off our homonym theme with a pare pair of adjectives that I find to be particularly tricky. The words complacent and complaisant are homophones as well as heterographs. As you may recall, homophones are words that sound the same, but are defined differently, while heterographs have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings.

Both words are derived from the Latin infinitive complacere meaning to please. Complaisant means “a desire to please,” whereas complacent means “pleased with one’s self” or “self-satisfied,” and usually has a negative connotation. To make it more confusing, one of the definitions of complacent IS complaisant! However, if you use the word complacent to mean “willingness to please or oblige others”, linguists will probably label it incorrect.

Stay tuned for another tricky homonym pear pair soon!

 

 

 

syzygy (si-zə-jē)

On August 21, 2017, millions of people in North America witnessed a rare astronomical event – a total eclipse of the Sun. This occurs when the Moon’s orbit aligns with the Earth and Sun.

When the Moon passes in front of the Sun, it casts two different types of shadows on Earth, the umbral shadow (umbra literally means “shadow” in Latin) and penumbral shadow. The umbral shadow is quite small, while the penumbral shadow covers a larger area of the Earth’s surface. In order to experience a total eclipse, you must be within the umbral shadow, or the path of totality, during the time of the eclipse.

The path of totality on August 21st was 70 miles wide, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. However, everyone in the United States experienced a partial eclipse, even if they were not in the path of totality.

In Hopkinsville, Kentucky, syzygy* occurred for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. This was one of the longest periods of totality that could be viewed in the United States. Hopkinsville is a relatively short drive from our house and we decided to make the trek for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We drove to a friend’s farm and sat in a quiet, open, field to watch this awe-inspiring event.

At the time of totality, the birds stopped singing, the cicadas started chirping, and darkness fell upon us. There was a peaceful white light emanating from the Sun and it was beautiful. We even witnessed the dazzling “Diamond Ring effect” as totality ended. I am truly grateful to have experienced this event with my family.

*Syzygy occurs when three celestial bodies align perfectly. The word comes from the Greek word syzygos which means yoked or united together.

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee – Memorable Moments

Last night, we attended an awards banquet at which the top 15 finalists were honored. Afterwards, spellers went to a farewell dance party. The party is my favorite part of Bee Week because it’s a time to celebrate and relax!

One of the most memorable moments of this year’s Bee was when Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton: An American Revolution, responded to a tweet about me with a “Go Tara!” I am a HUGE fan of Lin-Manual Miranda so this was a very exciting moment for me!

The Scripps National Spelling Bee celebrated its 90th Bee this year. To commemorate this milestone, Rookwood Pottery created a beautiful work of pottery for each speller. It features 4 books, each of which is inscribed with a different message relating to the Bee’s mission to “Inspire” students to “Discover” and “Achieve.” I will always treasure this amazing piece of pottery.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me! I have one year of eligibility left and I plan on working hard to make it back to the Scripps National Spelling Bee next year.

 

 

 

 

 

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee – Washington D.C.

Today many spellers were able to leisurely enjoy the sights of Washington D.C. In past years, my family has gone to the National Archives, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Natural History Museum. Last year, thanks to Congressman John Yarmuth of KY, we visited the White House and enjoyed a private tour of the Capitol Building.

This year, we decided to take the water taxi from National Harbor to the National Mall. We enjoyed the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. It was a good day to relax and reflect on the past year and plan for the year ahead – there is yet so much more to learn and I’m excited to begin the journey again but first I’m going to take a much needed break!

Tonight I look forward to the Awards Banquet and the party afterwards!

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 National Spelling Bee – A champion is declared!

The 2017 Scripps Spelling Bee champion is Ananya Vinay of Fresno, CA.  Ananya was letter-perfect through 34 rounds. The winning word was marocain, a ribbed crepe fabric used in women’s clothing.

Congratulations also to Rohan Rajeev, an eighth grader from OK, who was the runner-up in this year’s Bee.

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee – Finals (Part 1)

The Finals started this morning at 10:00 a.m. with 40 spellers.  Rounds 4-7 were tough and the words got progressively harder. At the end of Round 7, 15 spellers remained and will continue to spell tonight in the Championship Finals. I missed my Round 6 word, “piatti,” the Italian word for cymbals. My final ranking this year is 18 – a slight improvement over last year’s 22nd.

The best part of this morning was sitting near some AWESOME people who made me smile and feel more relaxed on stage. Thank you Siyona, Shourav, Jashun, Alex, and Naysa.

Good luck to all of the remaining Finalists!